On casting roundballs......

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Mark Herman

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I agree with Dave to a point. "Ramming a ball " down the barrel should not be necessary however a tight patch and ball is what makes things happen. Bore size balls, and over, with appropriate patches, once started should be relatively easy to push home and seat on the powder. To question this, look at the round ball bench shooters as well as the table and chunk gun shooters. One hole groups and many X's are the norm.
 

pat i.

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In my .62 smoothbore I use a .600 ball cast of WW with a .010 patch. In my rifles I use pure lead. I hate fighting a ball down a barrel so pure lead in the rifles and WW in the smoothbore since it loads easy.
 

Eutycus

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Zinc melted in your lead is a little more than a mess, it's next to useless. What does one do with this oatmeal like mass? Can the zinc be extracted?
 

nhmoose

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Dilution is way easier than burning it out. But way easier to keep it out of the mix. Zinc gets in by overheating your melting WW's Zink melts at a higher temp and will float above the lead spoon them out, or better yet check the weights with a set of diagonal pliers lead cuts the zinc ones won't.
 

Griz44Mag

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Lead balls do not obturate????? Please lead me to that data!
Look at your patches after being fired from either a smoothbore or a rifled barrel.
Patch has no holes or cuts in it if it is properly fitted and lubricated in a decent barrel.
If the ball was mushrooming under excessive pressure the patch would have holes or cuts in it.
I shoot a .005 undersized ball in most of my barrels. My patches do not get holes or cuts in them.
If a .575 diameter ball in a .58 bore is not changing more that .005", then it is not mushrooming under pressure.
Why do minnies have hollow base skirts on them? Because a pure lead (soft) solid bullet in the low pressures of black powder does not obiturate.
That's the same reason that many folks will paper patch a conical.
NOW - those nasty others (unmentionables) that are pushed by 35-40-60k (+) of pressure are certainly going to change shape in the bore, but we are not talking pressures above 15-20k on black powder. The bigger black powder pressures are even lower - down around 10k and less.
So ask yourself, why does a pure dead soft lead ball and an alloy like wheelweight (12-14 brinell) shoot to exactly the same point and you can't tell one patch from the other - neither one of them torn? You will do more damage to a soft round ball driving it down a too tight bore during loading than the exploding charge will do.
 

Griz44Mag

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Zinc melted in your lead is a little more than a mess, it's next to useless. What does one do with this oatmeal like mass? Can the zinc be extracted?
No, once in the zinc can only be electroplated out. (According to a chemist I know)
Some claim that you can stage the heat and get it to layer out. I have tried - multiple times - that just doesn't work.
However - it will make some decent fishing weights - don't limit your casting to shooting usage only. I got a really bad batch once, it become trot line weights and was not wasted..
 

Dphar1950

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Round balls lack the sectional density to "bump up" much. They move too easy. Conicals will expand to fill the bore. Before there is any gas escape. Unless the powder charge is very light.
 

Dphar1950

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Hardened lead will shoot as well as soft in a RB rifle. BUT the ball when alloyed will cast larger diameter than the pure lead and a thinner patch might be in order. Also barrels with wide lands will require more force to start the ball with hard lead. Narrower lands, such as found in Green Mountain barrels, load easier with hard lead.
 

VADSLRAM

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Just wondering how many folks cast their own balls? Do you concern yourself with hardness? Years ago, I used my Father's lead pots, ladles, etc. to cast round balls for my .45 and .50 cal. rifles. However, I never really concerned myself with hardness or "perfectly" round balls. My Father was a plumber, pipefitter from the 50's-70's era so back then alot of waste lines used "hemp" (for lack of the correct term) and lead to seal cast iron pipe.

Later in my life, I cast bullets for 44-40 loads but would go dig bullets out of backstops at shooting ranges! Again, never concerning myself with hardness or the "just right" combination of alloys.

So, any input would be appreciated. Also to historical correctness would be interesting. Meaning, "what did the old timers use"? Referring to pre 1800 era. Thanks All!


The plumbing was pack and pour. You used a waxed or tarred fiber called Oakum. Pour lead over it, then use a special tool to pack everything tight. My grandfather taught me how even for vertical joints. A pure soft lead was used.
I use wheel weights I get for free. It's probably much too hard. But the round balls shoot straight enough for me. I'm casting my first minnies this week. I'll see how this works with my franken-alloy
 

Zonie

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Round balls lack the sectional density to "bump up" much. They move too easy. Conicals will expand to fill the bore. Before there is any gas escape. Unless the powder charge is very light.
I agree.
This "bump up" thing is directly related to Newton's First Law of motion. The, "An object at rest stays at rest, an object in motion stays in motion." law.

If we are talking about a bullet when the gunpowder fires, there is a great deal of pressure on the back of the bullet trying to push it forward. All of the material ahead of the rear of the bullet wants to stay at rest so it resists movement.
Faced with this, the material between the front of the bullet and the rear of the bullet is compressed but with no place to go the bullet increases in diameter, often enough to completely fill the rifling grooves in the barrel. The closer to the tip of the bullet things are, the less material is ahead of most of the bullet so there is less force that is trying to stay stationary so the less growth in diameter of the bullet happens.
While all of this is happening, the pressure forces overcome the "stay at rest" forces and the bullet starts to move.
As it moves and increases speed, the pressure behind the bullet begins to decrease and as it does, the forces inside the bullet do as well so the bullet's growing in diameter lessens as well.

With all of that said, with a round ball there isn't a lot of material there to begin with. Only half of the material in the ball is ahead of the place where the ball meets the barrel so, like the bullet, with only half of the material in that forward area, there is less force that is trying to make the ball expand where it meets the rifling and, most of the expanding happens in areas that are not close to the bore.

This is why a good tight fitting patch is needed if roundballs are going to be shot.
 

Barry Strickland

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Interesting comments. Just as an experiment you might try something. Try throwing a round ball in the air and giving it a whack with a board. Not like hitting a baseball, just a small whack. Pick it up and you will see a flat spot where you hit it with the board. Where did that lead that originally occupied that flat spot go. It simply moved elsewhere.
Another experiment that we have all done is to start a ball down the bore with a large swatch of patching material and then pull it back out. Now, observe the embedded lines of the patch material in the soft lead ball. They are very pronounced where the lands have pressed the material into the ball and not so much where the grooves are, if at all. Did you notice how little pressure you had to hit the ball starter to make the lead yield enough to imprint the pattern on the ball?
When the light goes off and the ball is slammed with thousands of pounds of pressure in nanoseconds what do you think will happen.
 

WadePatton

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Hardness --AND-- size are controlled by alloy. The same mould will give you slightly different sized balls according to the alloy of the Pb. Never forget this and you'll see more light as you compare hardness and loadability if you're casting from one mould. Also you could adjust the alloy to change the size ball that mould produces. I don't hunt any game that needs a harder ball, but do have some wheel-weight alloy from years ago that I'm saving to shoot in a smoothie-or trade for softer Pb.

Casting your own will provide the best balls if done carefully and consistently and some quality control is utilized. I still think a lot of "uncalled fliers" are from production runs with less QC.
 

Tanglefoot

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Wow! There's a LOT of complication out there! I was taught to use only pure lead for round balls and for cap-n-ball conicals, and harder lead (wheel weights) for metallic cartridges. I've been following that advice for years now and so far it's worked for me. I used commercial cast and/or swaged round ball for testing purposes because they're checked for consistency, but I cast my own for hunting and target. There floats my stick.
 

Juice Jaws

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Wow! There's a LOT of complication out there! I was taught to use only pure lead for round balls and for cap-n-ball conicals, and harder lead (wheel weights) for metallic cartridges. I've been following that advice for years now and so far it's worked for me. I used commercial cast and/or swaged round ball for testing purposes because they're checked for consistency, but I cast my own for hunting and target. There floats my stick.
I am with you, do the same thing and it works. I don't get into all the scientific and black magic stuff, I do try to use my soft lead for rifles and harder for my smooth bore, but in my life its not rocket science.
 

Dphar1950

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Lead balls do not obturate????? Please lead me to that data!
Find data that says they do. I can shoot solid base 350-400 gr 40 cal bullet that are .010 under and they work fine shoot VERY well. But its in one of those unmentionables. So I understand bullet upset and can quote chapter and verse on elongated bullets and their ability to fill a bore before they start to move. I had an underhammer rifle at one time I shot Lyman 457125 bullets at about 525 gr with 70 gr of BP. Recovered bullets would show rifling marks all the way to the ogive. The barrel was cut by Ron long to have a .456-.457 BORE and the bullets were about that size and were pushed in with the thumb. They shot fine and the rifle would shoot pretty accurately to 1200 yards, but needed a platinum lined nipple. Even without a wad ( I was using lubed wads to soften fouling). Elongated bullets even solid base bullets upset very easily with BP even if relatively hard. I have not recovered a round ball that showed deeper impressions indicating it increased in diameter though the shadowgraph and strobe photos in Lymans original BP Handbook shows deformation in double ball loads and a 45 cal ball at 2220 fps is round at the rear but somewhat flattened at the front. Whether this is the result of acceleration or from the shockwave in front I cannot say. They say its the shock wave. ME? I dunno. If you want to do your own testing its possible to shoot balls into oiled sawdust ala Fredrick Mann in "The Bullets Flight From Powder to Target". If the box is 8 ft long or longer it might catch a ball with minimal deformation. But they are so soft in pure lead I cannot say for sure. I did recover a ball I shot a deer with from a pistol making 800 fps the ball was egg shaped and I cannot recall if the rifling marks were deeper than from a patched ball started in the muzzle over a strip of patch and then pulled out with the patching. Its been about 40 years back at this point. And it traveled about 24" though the deer and some marks could have been scrubbed off ????
 

Barry Strickland

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OK, Dphar, Finding data one way or another is very difficult. Not much out there on our interest in round ball interior ballistics.
That is interesting on your observations on the 457125, I wonder what tin/lead ratio you were using?
With your mention of shadowgraph pics in the BP handbook, I pulled my old copy off the bookshelves and took a look. BTW I bought my copy in the mid-1970s and was amazed at the data it gave me.
I went to page 49 and it confirmed what you were saying with the 457125 being fully engraved by the rifling. It was using a different projectile though.
I took a look at the double ball shadowgraph you referred to and it was interesting also. As they say "Massive deformation of each ball" is obviously apparent. If you notice the first ball that cut the tripwire has either parts of the tripwire or some lead out in front of the ball itself. Those particles moving out in front of the ball are a curiosity, what forces moved them faster than the ball is traveling?
The second ball has a fairly wide flattened area around its radius where it pressed against the barrel walls. The first ball not so much.
My old copy of the Lyman Black Powder Handbook is falling apart. Kind of like me. When I first started studying the ballistics tables back then, I thought something was wrong with the computer readout. Every chart had an odd wind drift number whenever it went from about 1200 FPS to 1100 FPS. It took some more research to realize there was less wind drift at a velocity slower than the speed of sound. Live and learn!
 

Dphar1950

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OK, Dphar, Finding data one way or another is very difficult. Not much out there on our interest in round ball interior ballistics.
That is interesting on your observations on the 457125, I wonder what tin/lead ratio you were using?
With your mention of shadowgraph pics in the BP handbook, I pulled my old copy off the bookshelves and took a look. BTW I bought my copy in the mid-1970s and was amazed at the data it gave me.
I went to page 49 and it confirmed what you were saying with the 457125 being fully engraved by the rifling. It was using a different projectile though.
I took a look at the double ball shadowgraph you referred to and it was interesting also. As they say "Massive deformation of each ball" is obviously apparent. If you notice the first ball that cut the tripwire has either parts of the tripwire or some lead out in front of the ball itself. Those particles moving out in front of the ball are a curiosity, what forces moved them faster than the ball is traveling?
The second ball has a fairly wide flattened area around its radius where it pressed against the barrel walls. The first ball not so much.
My old copy of the Lyman Black Powder Handbook is falling apart. Kind of like me. When I first started studying the ballistics tables back then, I thought something was wrong with the computer readout. Every chart had an odd wind drift number whenever it went from about 1200 FPS to 1100 FPS. It took some more research to realize there was less wind drift at a velocity slower than the speed of sound. Live and learn!
My Lyman book is falling apart as well. The trans-sonic range is very high drag for any bullet. There are many factors but the way I have seen it explained the TIME LOST by the bullet determines wind drift. A bullet started at 1050-1100 will lose less time than if its launched at 1250 and runs down through the high drag sound barrier velocity range on its way to the target. Causing it it to lose more time (as compared to being fired in a vacuum with no drag which will give the shortest time of flight for any given velocity) compared to the slower bullet which will take longer but loses less time since it slows down at a reduced rate due to the lower drag. At least thats how I read it years ago. Its best to stay supersonic all the way to the target. But this is just not viable with BP and the round ball has such poor ballistics that even if well over the speed of sound to the target it will still drift a lot since it loses so much time. I have found his shooting my 50 caliber heavy rifle with 100 gr of FFF Swiss at 60 yards. With the long barrel it must be over 2000 and still at perhaps 1500 at the target but the wind moves it a LOT. There is almost nothing comprehensive on BP ballistics in general and even less for the RB. Most of the info I have, from experience, is for brass suppository BP rifles and while some of it might be valid here there are other issues with slow elongated bullets at long range that simply do not apply to the RB.
 
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